You may read read some edited extracts from the interview material that underpins Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game (eds) Teachers Who Change Lives. In addition to those, I was interested to note among the teachers and (ex)students interviewed is Nicholas Jose, currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide, a long-term friend of my friend M, and also a friend of mine.
That is the method the book used: to interview a range of people about teachers who changed their lives, and also to interview a number of teachers. The project is 100% humanist and humane. Data is neither quantified nor analysed statistically. Instead, a number of themes emerge from the corpus of interviews. These are then expanded in a series of chapters. I propose to devote an entry to each of those themes.
But first a word on my own experience. It is only from time to time that I would say my teaching reached the level this book describes — but it did happen. Let me say, however, that those times were perhaps peak experiences, and sometimes they were not even recognised at the time they occurred. The school as institution can often be dispiriting and imperfect. There have been times I have said: “I love teaching. Just such a shame it happens in schools!” I think many teachers will know what I mean.
It is always nice to be told when such interactions actually happened, as one ex-student, Chris Jones, did in a comment here. Expanding on that in an email, Chris wrote, and I was more than happy to read:
I was very lucky to have you as a teacher Neil. Your classes were so different. I remember you as perhaps the only teacher who seemed to treat us as equals – you were a wiser equal, no doubt, but we could talk as if we were all standing at the same level. We could laugh and share thoughts and feelings without the usual hierarchy, and that made the learning experience all the better. My memory of Great Expectations mirrors that – it was like we all *together* made comments on it. No other teacher ever made me feel quite that way.
Chris was in the class of 1986. I knew at the time I was enjoying myself — and working quite hard — but I really had no idea this was the effect on some at least in that class.